Friday 23 March 2012

MP's, MSP's and Councillors

For Pedal on Parliament to succeed we a significant policy shift to occur in Scotland Government and Local Councils. For government and councils to change policy they need to sense that there that there is a significant proportion of the electorate who want change to occur. Otherwise they will just continue to tell us how good they have been so far.

I'm sorry, they haven't been.

How do we communicate the will of the people to our politicians?

There are three things that we are attempting to do to get the message across. We have a petition that we want as many people to sign as possible, we want as many people to turn up at the Pedal on Parliament event on the 28th April, and we want you to write to your politicians.

We would love you to do them all. However, if you can't make it on the 28th April (can't you just rearrange your life!!??) signing the petition will still help us a lot. However, the strongest message a politician can get from a constituent, is a letter. If a constituent sends a letter, that shows they are passionate about the issue and are willing to spend time to bring it to their attention. It is a very powerful tool.

That is why we are asking you to PLEASE write to your MSP's councillors and your MP's. We need you to ask them if they will support our 8 point manifesto and perhaps even turn up on the 28th. I'd love to publish a standard letter to use, but it is much more powerful if it is written in your own words.

I have recently written to my areas politicians, and yesterday received the following response from Jo Swinson (Lib Dem MP from East Dunbartonshire)

Thank you very much for your email regarding cycling in East Dunbartonshire.

I’m glad that you agree there is a real opportunity to improve things for cyclists in the area.  I do hope that you have by now received your invite to participate in the symposium organised by xxxx xxxxxx and I.  Please do get back to us with your preferred date and we’ll try to arrange a date convenient for the most people.

I’ve also attached a letter from the Roads Minister, Mike Penning, and the Minister for Cycling, Norman Baker, in response to the Times’ Cities Fit For Cycling Campaign.  It outlines the Coalition Government’s action on cycling.

Sadly, constituency engagements prevent me from pedalling on the Scottish Parliament on 28 April, but I’m sure there will be many cyclists there to press home their point.  Please do let me know how it goes.

Many thanks again and I look forward to seeing you at the symposium if you’re able to manage it along.  In the meantime, if I can be of further assistance on this or any other matter, please feel free to get back in touch.

Yours sincerely,

Jo Swinson MP

I have a lot of time for Jo. She has done a lot of good things for the area and as you can see from the above letter, she has sympathy with the issues of cyclists. I hope to attend the symposium that she is organising. What was a little disappointing was that she didn't openly support our manifesto.

That could be for a number of reasons. Perhaps she didn't agree with it, although I suspect that is not the case. My personal feeling is (and this is just my opinion) that personally she would support it, but that party politics prevents her from doing so publicly. We need to break through the party line. We need to get cross party support.

However, it is a start. What we need though is cyclists across the country writing letters so that each politician or councillor receives multiple letters about POP. Only with large numbers writing will the politicians sit up, take notice and consider how their views on POP and cycling will affect them at the ballot box.

Writing isn't difficult. It doesn't need to be a detailed letter. Just say what you think and ask if they will support the POP manifesto.It is made nice and easy to contact them here. Please take the time to write. With your help we really can change the landscape of cycling in Scotland. If we don't do it now it will be years before we have a chance again.

Let's make Scotland a cycle friendly nation!

Monday 19 March 2012

Roundabouts and incidents

Anyone who follows me will remember my 20cm from Death incident. If you haven't come across this before, have a read here. As described in the blog, after a little convincing, the driver was charged with Dangerous Driving and it was sent to the Procurator Fiscal (equivalent to the English CPS). It was dropped on a technicality.

What I do know, is that the driver admitted to the police that he did not see me. He pulled out completely oblivious to my presence on the roundabout. It was right to charge him and a shame that it failed to get any further.

Fast forward to the 25th of November 2011. This is what happens at the very same roundabout.

Watch this video and then compare it to the '20cm incident'.

The similarities are striking. There are a few notable differences. The conditions in the new video were wet, when it was dry and cold in the first. It was darker in the new video, when it was bright in the original (I had bright lights on in both incidents), and the original one looked closer. However, that is only because the first was a longer articulated lorry that got closer after I stopped. One further noticeable difference is that in the original video the HGV continued without stopping or slowing whilst the HGV in the latest video slowed and (not seen on video) held his hand up in apology.

In all other respects the videos are very, very similar. My road position was almost identical, and my speed was very similar (17mph on entering the roundabout according to my camera's GPS).

Shocked by the incident I took the footage to the police. This is where the there are big differences.

Two police officers initially came to my house following my report. I showed them the footage and described the detail surrounding the incident. They were sympathetic, but to my utter surprise one of the officers stated:

'Unfortunately there isn't a lot we can do, as there hasn't been a collision....'

My hackles raised at this remark. However, I remained calm and pointed out that my previous incident, which thankfully did not involve collision, resulted in the driver being charged with Dangerous Driving. Grudgingly, the officers said they would take the footage and show it to a traffic officer for advice.

A month passed without any contact. So I started chasing it up. A day or so later one of the officers left a message on my phone. Here are the relevant statements

Sorry for not getting back to you, I've been off for a while, and no-one dealt with it whilst I was away...

Having reviewed the footage with my sergeant and with a traffic officer , the driver of the truck was actually not driving dangerously. Due to the position of my bike on the road it was concluded that he may have thought you were continuing right the way around the roundabout.

That wasn't what I was expecting. I wasn't expecting it for a number of reasons. Firstly, my position on the road was almost exactly the same as it was in my first incident (note that they were filmed with different cameras with different fields of view). Secondly, my speed at approach and during my time on the roundabout is far too fast to continue around the roundabout. It is quite a sharp roundabout that dips down in the middle and up as I exit. I would come off continuing around at that speed. Also, this is exactly the route taken by motor vehicles negotiating this roundabout.I've tried cycling on the left and it brings me into conflict with cars that are taking the normal line.

Finally, even if I had been continuing around the roundabout, at our relative speeds he would have been right upon me or to my left as he came around the roundabout. This in itself would be very dangerous. I could have been flattened by his cab. I can create a separate blog that looks in detail at my road position if people are interested.

So I decided to phone the officer back to get some more detail. I was also interested to know what the driver had to say about the incident.

On the evening of the 9th of January, I managed to get a hold of the officer. I asked her a few questions for clarification.

Magnatom: First can I clarify, is the driver to be charged at all? With Careless Driving for example?

Officer: No.

Magnatom: What did the driver say when you talked to him?

Officer: We haven't contacted the driver. It is very difficult to identify drivers of HGV's in this situation. I have had problems with this in the past....there is a lot of paperwork involved.

Magnatom: So you have based your decision on the video footage alone?

Officer: Correct.

Magnatom:  So we will never know if the diver thought I was going all the way around the roundabout or if he didn't look properly. I also dispute the fact that my position was at issue here. This is the route that a normal car would take...

Officer: You shouldn't take the same route as a car. Bikes are different. You should take cycle on the left around a roundabout.

Magnatom: Pardon?

Officer: We were taught in our cycle training that on a bike you take the left lane unless you are turning right.

Magnatom: This is a 5 exit roundabout, and I was taking the third exit. Do you agree that by taking a position further on the left of the lane (there is only one lane it should be noted) that I would plave myself in more danger if the tanker driver hadn't seen me? For example, I would have less time to react if he does pull out.

Officer: Yes.

I was very surprised by this phone call. Surprised that it was being taken no further, certainly. Surprised about the comments about my road position being contributory, yes, although I can to some extent understand why looking at the video in isolation that could be implied.  What surprised me the most though was that they came to the decision about the motives of the driver purely from my video. They never bothered to ask him why he did what he did. Too much hassle it would appear.

It seemed like I was at a dead end. Nothing was going to come of this. Before the end of  the phone call I asked if the traffic officer who looked at the footage could call me back. I was interested to find out how they came to the decision.

I didn't get a phone call back from the traffic officer. Instead a few days later the PC I had already been on the phone to called me back. They were now going to prosecute for Careless Driving. So why the change in heart? The PC explained that she talked to the traffic officer who she thought had looked at it (turned out she got the wrong one). When this officer looked at it, they had a completely different view of the incident, and thus suggested that the case should proceed. I was very surprised, but happy with this turn of events.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago. I decided to call the Procurator Fiscal (this is who decides what course of action to take with cases in Scotland). I wanted to find out what was happening to the case.

The driver was given a warning letter from the PF.

What?! That's it? An HGV virtually runs over the top of me, a very clear case of Careless driving (some would suggest Dangerous Driving), that, had I not been on the ball  could have become Death By Careless Driving, and they think a warning letter is sufficient!?!

I need to get to the bottom of this. To do so, I need to write to the PF office to find out how they arrived at that decision. They don't make it easy for victims of crime to find out what has happened when they report a crime. I'll blog about it when I find out more.

What this incident and my other dealings with the police highlight, is that dangerous/careless driving is not taken seriously. How can we expect the standard of driving to improve on our roads if drivers (remember I am one as well) know that they can 'literally' get away with  it.

For me, this highlights exactly why point 5 of the Pedal on Parliament manifesto is crucial. Please, read the manifesto and if you agree with it, sign the petition and come along to Edinburgh on the 28th April.

Yes, our roads are generally safe for cycling. However, they could be a lot safer. They won't be though, with police and fiscal attitudes such as those I have encountered.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Is it worth it?

There have been times in the past when I've wondered if my videoing, and blogging was worth the hassle. There have been dark moments in the past when I have considered throwing in the towel.

Sticking your head above the parapet comes with it's downsides.

However, the last couple of weeks have shown to me that without a doubt what I do, and what many others like me do (I am not by any stretch of the imagination the best cycling blogger...) can make a difference.

Pedal on Parliament which is a collaboration between cyclists like myself, though diverse in nature, is going from strength to strength, and we are no where near the 28th of April yet! I've already mentioned our website, manifesto etc in other blog posts. POP28 seems to have been well received so far and we are getting some excellent publicity and support. So far we have:

  • Made it into the Evening News in Edinburgh (sister paper of the Scotsman) where Mark Beaumont has pledge support to our campaign
  • We have had pledges of support from cyclists all over the country with groups coming from Glasgow, Dumfries and Dundee to name a few
  • Our twitter feed continues to gain support at an amazing rate (233 at time of typing)
  • We have already gained the support of some MSP's and councillors (to be announced later on the POP28 page)
As well as the growing support for POP28 and our manifesto, I have seen some inspirational efforts by the organising team  in the work they have and are doing. It has taken a lot of work to get the website up, get the manifesto written etc. Everyone in the team will get a mention at some point. However, in this blog I wish to focus on the work of two of the team.

Anthony Robson, one of my fellow organisers has produced this wonderful promotional video.

This deserves to become viral!

Also worth a mention are the artistic skills of another co-organiser Andy Authur. Hecontinues to amaze me. In fact I have been dealt an incredible honour of inspiring one of Andy's posters.

I've never met Andy before, so I am amazed at how he has managed to capture my physique so accurately......ahem! Andy is working on several posters along a similar theme demonstrating the diversity of cyclists. Keep an eye out on the POP28 website!

Most importantly these posters contain the important information. Look at our website, follow the @POPScotland twitter feed, and keep an eye on the #POP28 twitter tag. Most importantly of course, come to Edinburgh on the 28th of April.

I now have absolutely no doubt that my blogging and videoing has been worthwhile. The last couple of weeks have demonstrated that individual voices, when they come together, can become very powerful and accomplish great things.

Set aside the 28th of April and you too could be part of something quite extraordinary.

Monday 12 March 2012

Pedal on Parliament

Wow! Double Wow! Wow, wow, WOW!

A little while back I had an idea. I've had plenty of those over the years and most have come to nothing, or not very much. However, I had an idea a little while back, this one, that seems to have gone big time. It looks like it is actually going to happen.

We are going to Pedal On Parliament on the 28th April!!


I'd love to claim that it was all my own work, that I've worked my little cotton socks off setting this up and organising this all myself. Actually I wouldn't want to claim that. I have had the incredible fortune of working with a fabulous band of people, who happen to cycle as well, and who took my crazy idea, and have turned it into a reality.

Oh. Wait a minute. It hasn't actually happened yet. We have only set up a web site, a twiiter feed and a facebook page, written an amazing manifesto, built up a good level of support already, got some amazing graphics etc. Actually a lot has been done, but we still have a long way to go.

This is where you come in. We need you to support us. Visit the website. Read the manifesto. Set the date aside in your diary. Contact your MSP's, MP's and councillors, spread the word, and most importantly.....turn up! (Oh and sign up for this Facebook page if you use Facebook!)

With your help we can change the landsape of Scotlands roads. Not just for the benefit of cyclists, for the benefit of everyone.

Look at how much has been done by 7 or 8 concerned cyclists. Just imagine how much we could achieve if we all turned up on the 28th April in Edinburgh.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

The Big Day is Coming - 28th April

We've been busy. Very busy.

Personally I've been busy making TV appearances ( Yes I'm a media tart!

However, much more importantly a dedicated band of cycle campaigners have been working feverishly to fill out the detail for the forthcoming cycle event on the 28th of April.

We can't share that detail with you just yet, as it isn't quite finalised. However, we are aiming for a publicity launch on the 12th March. This would include website launch, Facebook page launch, Twitter feed launch and some initial designs for the poster leaflet campaign.

However, the success of this event does not just depend on our small team. It depends on you as well. Firstly we need you to turn up. This is the most important part. We also need you to turn up with other people. Friends, family, whoever you know who has a bike, a pair of feet or any non motorised form of transport. Remember we are trying to make cycling safe for everybody, from the very young, to the very old. We'd love people of all ages to attend.

Finally, we will need you to contact your politicians. The whole point of the event is to put pressure on them to take active travel seriously and to listen to the issues that we raise. They won't do that unless they hear that their constituents want them to do that.

We will of course try and make it as easy as possible for you to contact them via our website. Remember it won't just be your MSP's but your councillors to.

Together we can make Scotland a cycle friendly country

Thursday 1 March 2012

Could This be Your School Run?

We all know what the school run can be like. A nightmare. The school that my oldest boy goes to (primary school) is in a village where the majority of people who attend live within a mile of the school. Walking or cycling to or from school should be the default. To be fair the majority do walk. However, just the other day we all got a letter back from the school asking that parents not to drive into the school grounds at pick up and drop off time, and commenting that some drivers are parking badly (dangerously) and driving far too fast.

This is not the first time we have had a letter back about this. Last year the police patrolled for a while pulling up the offenders. It reduced for a while, but the problem is back again.

Don't get me wrong, there are times when using the car is most convenient. Say for instance you are dropping the kids off on the way to work a distance away (although a bike may still be an option....). However, it would not surprise me if some just drive to the school and drive back. It's not nice having to dodge the school run traffic.

However, the school run need not be so stressful. Watch this video from Assen in the Netherlands.

Notice how busy it is, notice how people do get in each others way. Notice though, how it is all done with a smile, and with absolutely minimal risk. Notice how there is not a hi-vis jacket or helmet in site.

Now imagine your local school. Imagine that instead of a stream of 4x4's and people carriers (we have a people carrier) you had a stream of bikes like in the video above.

Some say it can't be done. It can, and it has. So lets do it.

Oh and if you want to see this near a street near you, ride with us in Edinburgh on the 28th